Homelessness in Canada
Homelessness is not an error of people, caused by their characteristics or mistakes, but instead, by society's and governments' actions or failures to act in the areas of poverty, deinstitutionalization, and the shrinking supply of affordable housing. At the root of homelessness is poverty, and the growing number of poor is leaving many without shelter, or a roof over their heads. Deinstitutionalization was originally seen as an appropriate way to maximize resources, but insufficient reinforcement has led to vagrancy. The rising cost of rent and housing has made it difficult to pay for other basic necessities such as food, leading to homelessness as the only option. However, if prevention and reduction strategies are effectively placed by the government, a decrease in homelessness is very possible. The occurrence and deepening poverty has grown because of alterations in the make up of the labour market and because of Government policy changes like restrictions on Employment Insurance eligibility and incises to welfare. The rich are continuing to get richer and the poor are continuing to get poorer. “From the ten-year period between 1986 and 1996 the population of Canada increased by 14 percent, and this would bring upon expectations of a corresponding increase in the number of Canadians living below the official poverty line set by the federal government. Instead we find that there were 30 percent more Canadians living in poverty at the end of this period, a rate which was more than double that warranted by population increase of 14 percent.” (Pohl, par. 1; “cause #1” sec.7) Women are especially having a harder time dealing with poverty issues as they are more likely to experience times of low financial instability for a longer amount of time and to a greater degree of depth than men. In 2003, there were approximately 1.5 million adult women living in poverty. In the same year, the average pre-tax income for women over the age of 16 was just 62% that of men. (Women and Girls: Homelessness and Poverty in Canada 1) These underlying factors of women in poverty are what cause the bulk of homeless women. For example, in Vancouver the homeless people who were confined to streets consisted of being female and less than 19 years old 31.5% of the time. So not only men and women, but also the youth is affected by poverty and homelessness. The likelihood of youth who grow up in poverty is far more likely to grow up to live in extreme financial distress. This is the result of other negative outcomes of poverty such as poor academic achievement, abuse and neglect, developmental delays, physical health problems, and behavioral and sociological problems. Deinstitutionalization has led to structural changes in the health care system which has resulted in people coming out of institutions without any proper community support programs leaving them to become homeless. Without proper community-based support programs deinstitutionalized mentally ill patients have more difficulties obtaining a home. The Vancouver Richmond Health Board/Vancouver Community Mental Health Services maintains a waiting list of 2,600 individuals who are mentally ill who must wait an average of four years for supportive housing. (Homelessness Causes and Effects 3) For example, in the past four decades British Columbia has had the largest amount of deinstitutionalization it has ever had. This is directly attributable to the downsizing and eventual closure of Riverview Hospital on July 13, 2012. When Riverview Hospital was downsizing they were under funded, and felt as if modern medicine had relinquished the need for a psychiatric hospital. This resulted in a deinstitutionalizing of many patients deemed to be fit for society when they were actually more suited to remain in the mental institutions permanently or for an extended period of time. These patients after wandering the streets, and looking for jobs and homes from anywhere from a month to...
Cited: ---. Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia. Homelessness: Clear Focus Needed. Victoria, 2008/09. Print.
---. Ministry of Social Development and Economic Security. Homelessness-Causes and Effect: A Profile, Policy Review and Analysis of Homelessness in British Columbia. Vol. 2. N.p.: n.p., 2001. Print.
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